The Founding Fathers told us that all men were created equal, endowed with inalienable rights. They also kept slaves. That gap between the American dream of equality and the often ugly reality has been with us ever since.
It's a shame that reality has fallen so far short because the dream is awesome. The ideal (as Martin Luther King put it) that people should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. That men and women, gay and straight, should likewise be judged by their worth, not their gender or sexual orientation. That Protestant and Catholic, Muslim and pagan, Jew and atheist, are all entitled to equal treatment under the law and equal rights to follow their beliefs. That an attack on the rights of one should be treated as an attack on the rights of all.
Since before 1776, Americans who believe in equality have fought to align reality with the dream. But that requires change, and nobody likes change but a wet baby. For a variety of reasons, some Americans have fought against equality tooth and nail. The reasons are many:
Becoming more equal means that blacks, women, Asians, whoever, finally gets a fair share of the pie. That means someone else gets less. The loss of pie scares people who already have an unfairly small slice. It also scares people who have an unfairly huge slice and want to keep it that way.
Some people just hate.
For some people, knowing that being white or Christian or male gives them more rights is what makes them feel special. If non-whites, non-Christians or females get equality, they're taking away the specialness, and that's not acceptable.
Some people insist they do judge people by the content of their character. It's just that in their totally objective judgment, the character of blacks or Jews or women or gays or Arabs sucks. Which they're convinced is not bigotry, it's understanding human nature — women/gays/Jews/Hispanics are just That Way. Or science, maybe it's science that proves it. Or God, God said they suck so that's that. In any case, there's no point in denying they're inferior so shut up about it, you social justice warrior.
Islamophobia is prejudice against, hatred towards, or irrational fear of Muslims. The concept also encompasses the opinions that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, is inferior to the West and is a violent political ideology rather than a religion. | Photo: |
Some people think even discussing inequality is bad. Not that they support inequality, gosh no, of course not. It's just that talking
about inequality — discrimination against black Americans, say — is talking about race. About helping someone purely because of their race (or gender, orientation, religion, etc.). That's identity politics. It's discriminatory. If you really believe in equality you should treat everyone equally, right? So giving "special treatment" to one group, no matter how bad their situation, must be wrong. Not doing anything about discrimination is how you really support equality. Some day society will stop being unequal, so we just have to wait for it to happen. Demanding change now is too extreme, too radical. The discriminated-against just need to be patient.
No, they shouldn't.. Because equality isn't extreme. It's a middle-of-the-road, compromise, moderate position.
Consider religion. The opposite of a theocracy where Christians force everyone to obey their beliefs about gays, women, abortion or Islam would be a Muslim theocracy where Muslims wield the same power. Or an atheist state that denies religion any say in public life. Equality of religion — everyone can worship, nobody gets to impose their faith on unbelievers — is the middle between all those extremes.
The opposite of a patriarchal state where men are entitled to run everything isn't a society where men and women have equal rights. It's a society where women being in charge is seen as the natural default position, men who protest about it are playing "the victim card" and "men shouldn't work outside the home" is considered a reasonable mainstream position.
Equality is the compromise, the center point between all the forces that think they should hog all the rights while the rest of society gets nothing. To get to that point, we have to work to fix inequality, because society won't magically change by itself. As Frederick Douglass put it, power concedes nothing without a demand. Extremists don't move to the center. People hang on to their pie. The Egyptians would never have let the Israelites out of bondage without God smiting them a few times.
Demanding, pushing, fighting, no matter what the opposition is the only way forward.